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01-06-2011 | Uitgave 2/2011

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 2/2011

Reassessing the Assessment of Change in At-Risk Youth: Conflict and Coherence in Overall Versus Contextual Assessments of Behavior

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment > Uitgave 2/2011
Jack C. Wright, Audrey L. Zakriski, Anselma G. Hartley, Harry W. Parad
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We are deeply grateful to the children, parents, staff, and administrators of Wediko Children’s Services, whose cooperation made it possible to collect the data reported here. We would also like to thank the research coordinators and assistants for their dedication to the project. The first and second authors made equal contributions to this work; the order of their authorship was randomly determined. This research was partially supported by award number R15MH076787 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.


This research examined how a contextual approach to personality assessment can reveal change processes that are obscured by measures of overall behavior frequencies. Using field observations of 336 children from three summers at a program for at-risk youth, we illustrate how children’s social experiences change over time, how their reactions to these experiences change, and how both processes contribute to changes in the overall frequencies of their prosocial, aggressive, and withdrawn behavior. Children showing opposite patterns of change in their environments and their reactions to them were nevertheless similar in their overall amount of change. The results clarify how changes in reactions and social experiences can be disentangled and reintegrated in order to deepen our understanding of personality change processes. Implications for change assessments that rely on overall behavior summaries are highlighted for program, individual, and intra-individual levels of analysis.

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